Open Space Technology
A few months ago I attended a conference - or rather, an un-conference. The focus was online community management, but that's not the point of this article. The un- in the un-conference is the point.
Open Space Technology (OST) is a method of conducting a conference (and other meetings) to generate collaboration and communication with groups of 5 to 1,500 participants. It is particularly effective when the goal is to develop solutions that need to be available yesterday. Attendees generate the meeting agenda at the beginning of the day and then participate by leading small group break-out sessions during the meeting time. Topics that may have arisen since the meeting date was planned have an opportunity to be discussed, and a lot of networking time is available for collaboration.
I was amazed at the amount of constructive work that took place. While there is certainly a place for the traditional presentation mode, where one (or more) presenter teaches, I found that OST was a perfect format for exploration of problems and issues that participants face in their jobs. I also thought it was a very energizing experience and left each session with a lot of enthusiasm for what waited for me back in the office.
OST has been around for decades and can be used for any size group - it scales to upwards of 2,000 participants. For more information go to http://www.openspaceworld.org.